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Captains of excellence

Journalist Paolo Pilati describes some of the best Italian companies through the stories of their managers

 

Italian business excellence. This has become a familiar theme in many circles (and with good reason). However, this theme has never been explored sufficiently and we can always discover some previously unknown angle. The same can be said for those in the corporate world who are commonly referred to as top managers, in Italian as well. In other words, these are the senior officials, the ranks of women and men who support (in some cases replace) the entrepreneur. Different people, with different backgrounds, different characteristics and attributes, who all share the priceless ability to take a company by the hand, make it grow, conquer new worlds and generate wealth.

These people are the subject of “I generalissimi. Strategie e segreti dei top manager italiani” (“The Top Generals: Strategies and secrets

of top Italian managers”), written by Paola Pilati (a sharp journalist and expert in business and management).

Pilati begins with a statement of fact: “Made in Italy” can be described through turnover, joint ventures, winning market share. But it can also be seen through the stories of the people who steer companies to achieve their objectives, the managers who sit at the top: the CEOs.

This is followed by ten stories about ten managers from some of the country’s most important industries. The result is a book that is at the same time a history of men and women and a history of business. It also illustrates the current relevance of both. Pilati’s highly readable pages feature giants of stock market capitalisation such as Eni and Enel; undisputed champions in their sectors such as Fincantieri and Snam; the stories of family-run businesses such as Chiesi, the pharmaceutical company, Coim, the chemical company, Brembo, the manufacturer of Formula 1 brakes, and the Calzedonia group, with its strong presence on the world’s High Streets; and female-led companies such as Kiko with its successful fast make-up and Sanlorenzo’s Bluegame super-yachts, one of the most recognisable brands in the luxury sector. These are all companies (and what companies they are!) united by the presence of women and men who have the responsibility of steering the strategic choices that propel them into the future, as well as preserving their history, founding values, wealth of experience and knowledge. Summarising the content of her literary work, the author writes: “There are ten different examples, each is exemplary in their field, but they all have a common trait: they show that although Italian-style capitalism has declined in comparison with the past, it is perfectly integrated in the large value chains, undaunted by international markets and led by managers who are open to the new ‘humanism’ that is sweeping society”. Paola Pilati’s book is a must-read.

I generalissimi. Strategie e segreti dei top manager italiani (The top generals. Strategies and secrets of Italian top managers)

Paola Pilati

LUISS University Press, 2021